The debate over the impact and benefits of guaranteed income programs in Texas has once again garnered bipartisan attention and will be a priority at the next legislative session.

Several Texas cities and counties, including Austin, El Paso County, Houston, and San Antonio, have launched guaranteed income programs in recent years. These programs reportedly offer cash assistance to low-income households with few strings attached.

Austin spearheaded the initiative, being the first city in Texas to introduce a taxpayer-funded income program in 2022. At that time, Austin joined 28 other cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago, to offer financial assistance for low-income households, according to The Texas Tribune.

Each income program was implemented with different services and financial offerings. Yet, for perspective, San Antonio reported that from December 2020 to January 2023, “UpTogether’s” guaranteed income pilot program provided 1,000 families with over $5,100 in the city. Participants with incomes below 150% of the poverty line received an initial payment of $1,908, followed by eight quarterly payments of $400. While the funds made a positive difference, participants still faced considerable financial challenges, per Axios San Antonio.

Notably, Houston’s guaranteed income program drew critique from various republican politicians.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, AG Ken Paxton made headlines by suing Harris County to block its guaranteed income program, Uplift Harris County Guaranteed Income Pilot.

Paxton contends that the program, which would provide cash payments to thousands of households, violates state law by using public funds for private purposes.

“Taxpayer money must be spent lawfully and used to advance the public interest, not merely redistributed with no accountability or reasonable expectation of a general benefit. I am suing to stop officials in Harris County from abusing public funds for political gain,” Paxton said in an April 9 press release.

“This program is about helping people in a real way by giving them direct cash assistance — something governments have always done. I cannot for the life of me understand why any public servant would be opposed to that,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee added.

Uplift Harris has received $20.5 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, designed to aid Americans in recovering from the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic economic downfall, reported KHOU 11.

James Quintero, policy director at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, expressed concerns about the growing trend of guaranteed income programs, telling The Texas Tribune, “Every dollar that those recipients spent was taken away from somebody else. It’s not an appropriate role for government to simply be a redistributed mechanism that takes from some and gives to others for no good reason.”

The debate over guaranteed income programs will likely intensify in the coming months, as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has included the issue on his list of priorities for the next legislative session, according to KHOU.

The Dallas Express contacted representatives of Uplift Harris for a comment about the recent Paxton lawsuit but did not receive a response by the time of publication.